Sophfronia Scott began her writing career as a journalist for Time and People magazines. When her first novel, All I Need to Get By, was published by St. Martin’s Press in 2004 she was nominated for best new author at the African American Literary Awards and hailed by Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. as “potentially one of the best writers of her generation.” Her essays, short stories and articles have appeared in North American Review, Killens Review of Arts & Letters, Saranac Review, Numéro Cinq, Ruminate, The Timberline Review, Barnstorm Literary Journal, Sleet Magazine, NewYorkTimes.com, More and O, The Oprah Magazine. Her essay “Why I Didn’t Go to the Firehouse” is listed among the Notables in Best American Essays 2017.
Sophfronia previously taught at M.F.A. programs at Regis University and Bay Path University. She’s also delivered craft talks and held workshops at the Yale Writers’ Workshop, the Madeleine L’Engle Conference, Antioch Writers’ Workshop, Meacham Writers’ Workshop, and the Hobart Festival of Women Writers in addition to her own writers’ retreat, The Write of Your Life, which takes place in Veneto, Italy each September. She lives in Sandy Hook, Connecticut where she is working on her next novel and recently completed a nonfiction book about her virtual mentorship with the monk Thomas Merton. This also means she is fighting a losing battle against the weeds in her flower beds. Her website is www.Sophfronia.com.
Karen E. Bender is the author of two story collections: Refund, which was a Finalist for the National Book Award in Fiction, Shortlisted for the 2015 Frank O’Connor International Story Prize, and also Longlisted for the Story Prize. Her collection The New Order, was Longlisted for the Story Prize in 2018. She is the author of two novels, Like Normal People, which was a Washington Post Book of the Year and a Los Angeles Times bestseller, and A Town of Empty Rooms. Her fiction has appeared in magazines including The New Yorker, Granta, Ploughshares, The Yale Review, The Harvard Review, Zoetrope, Electric Literature, Guernica and others, and has been reprinted in Best American Short Stories, Best American Mystery Stories, and New Stories from the South: The Year’s Best.
The winner of three Pushcart prizes, her work has been read at “Selected Shorts” at Symphony Space by Joanne Woodward and by Levar Burton on Levar Burton Reads. Bender has received grants from the Rona Jaffe Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. The Visiting Distinguished Professor of Creative Writing at Hollins University, she has also taught in the creative writing programs at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, the University of Iowa, and at the low residency M.F.A. programs at Warren Wilson College, Chatham University and Antioch University Los Angeles. Bender is the fiction editor of the literary journal Scoundrel Time. Learn more: www.karenebender.com.
Anna Clark, of Detroit, is a writer driven by curiosity and a belief in the power of good stories to bring more truth and empathy into the world. She is the author of The Poisoned City: Flint’s Water and the American Tragedy, named one of the year’s best books by the Washington Post, the San Francisco Chronicle, Kirkus, the New York Public Library, Audible and others. It won the Hillman Prize for Book Journalism, the Rachel Carson Environment Book Award, the Gross Award for Literature, and it was a finalist for the Helen Bernstein Award for Excellence in Book Journalism. Anna’s writing has appeared in Elle, the New York Times, the Washington Post, Politico, The New Republic, the Columbia Journalism Review, Next City, CityLab and other publications. She’s also a contributing editor at Waxwing Literary Journal, where she likes to focus on international literature, and guest edited a special issue of the Michigan Quarterly Review, titled “Not One Without.” Anna edited “A Detroit Anthology,” a Michigan Notable Book, and also wrote a small book about the distinctive literary culture of the Great Lakes state. She is a longtime teacher of writing and improv theatre in all corners of the world: high schools, colleges, prisons, detention centers, soup kitchens, tech incubators and more. Anna also co-curates the Motor Signal Reading Series in Detroit’s Eastern Market, which jolts the typical literary reading out of its traditional form. She has been a Fulbright fellow in creative writing in Nairobi, Kenya, and a Knight-Wallace journalism fellow at the University of Michigan. Anna graduated from Warren Wilson College’s M.F.A. Program for Writers. Learn more: www.annaclark.net
Dhonielle Clayton is a New York Times Bestselling author of The Belles series, the coauthor of the “Tiny Pretty Things” duology, which debuts as a Netflix original series soon, and the author of the forthcoming MG fantasy series The Marvellers. She hails from the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C., taught secondary school for several years, and is a former elementary and middle school librarian. She is COO of the nonprofit We Need Diverse Books, and owner of CAKE Literary, a creative kitchen whipping up decadent — and decidedly diverse — literary confections for middle grade, young adult and women’s fiction readers. An avid traveler, Dhonielle is always on the hunt for magic and mischief. Learn more: https://www.dhonielleclayton.com/.
Leslie Contreras Schwartz is the fourth Houston Poet Laureate. She is the author of three collections of poetry: black dove / paloma negra, Fuego and Nightbloom & Cenote, a semi-finalist for the 2017 Tupelo Press Dorset Prize, judged by Ilya Kaminsky.
Her work, including essays and short stories, has appeared in Pleiades, The Missouri Review, [PANK], Iowa Review, Verse Daily, Catapult and Xicanx: 21 Mexican American Writers of the 21st Century, edited by ire’ne lara silva among others. She has collaborated or been commissioned for poetic projects with the City of Houston, the Houston Grand Opera and The Moody Center of the Arts at Rice University.
Contreras Schwartz was born in Houston with Mexican American and Mexican roots going back several generations in Houston and the state of Texas. She is a graduate of The Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College and earned a bachelor’s degree at Rice University. Contreras Schwartz is also a member of the Macondo Writers’ Collective. She has taught at the University of Houston and Rice University, teaches community workshops, and is a speaker on the topics of mental health and poetry. Learn more: https://www.lesliecschwartz.com/.
As a writer, Jim Daniels, a 1978 graduate of Alma College, has authored 28 collections of poetry, six collections of fiction and four produced screenplays. He has also edited or coedited six anthologies of writing. Daniels is a recipient of two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and two from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. His books have won three Michigan Notable Book Awards, the Brittingham Prize for Poetry, the Blue Lynx Prize for Poetry, the Tillie Olsen Creative Writing Award, the Milton Kessler Award, and three Gold Medals in the Independent Publisher Book Awards, among others, and his films have won many awards in film festivals around the world.
His work has been published in The Best American Poetry and Pushcart Prize volumes. He has read his poetry on Garrison Keillor’s “Prairie Home Companion,” and his poems have been frequently featured on Keillor’s “Writer’s Almanac.” Poet laureates Billy Collins, Ted Kooser and Tracy K. Smith have all showcased his writing as part of their work to bring poetry to average Americans: in Collins’ Poetry 180 anthologies, Kooser’s “American Life in Poetry” series, and on Smith’s poetry podcast, “The Slowdown.”
During his long career, he has warmed up for singer-songwriter Lucinda Williams at the Three Rivers Arts Festival, had his poem “Factory Love” displayed on a race car, and is sending poetry to the moon in 2021 as part of the Moon Arts Project. A native of Detroit, he currently lives in Pittsburgh, where he is the Thomas Stockham Baker University Professor of English. At Carnegie Mellon University, he has received the Ryan Award for Excellence in Teaching, the Elliott Dunlap Smith Award for Teaching and Educational Service, the Mark Gelfand Service Award for Educational Outreach, and the Faculty Service Award from the Alumni Association.
Matthew Gavin Frank is the author of the nonfiction books, The Mad Feast: An Ecstatic Tour Through America’s Food, Preparing the Ghost: An Essay Concerning the Giant Squid and Its First Photographer, Pot Farm and Barolo; the poetry books, The Morrow Plots, Warranty in Zulu and Sagittarius Agitprop, and two chapbooks. Preparing the Ghost was a New York Times Editors’ Choice, an NPR Notable Book, and a New Yorker Book to Watch Out For. The Mad Feast was selected as a Staff Pick by The Paris Review, a Best Book of 2015 by Ploughshares, The Millions, and Paste Magazine, longlisted for the Art of Eating Prize, and featured in The Wall Street Journal, Saveur, and Entertainment Weekly.
His forthcoming nonfiction book, Flight of the Diamond Smugglers — about, among other things, the ways in which carrier pigeons are used by diamond smuggling rings — is due out February 2021 from W.W. Norton: Liveright. His work appears widely in journals and magazines, including The Kenyon Review, The Paris Review, Guernica, The New Republic, Iowa Review, Salon, Conjunctions, The Believer,The Normal School, The Best Travel Writing anthologies, The Best Food Writing anthologies, The Poetry Foundation, and as Notable selections in The Best American Essays anthologies. After spending 17 years in the restaurant industry, he’s now a professor of creative writing in the M.F.A. Program at Northern Michigan University, where he is also the Nonfiction/Hybrids Editor of the literary magazine, Passages North. Learn more: https://www.matthewgfrank.com/.
Benjamin Garcia’s first collection, Thrown in the Throat, was selected by Kazim Ali for the 2019 National Poetry Series. He works as a sexual health and harm reduction educator in the Finger Lakes region of New York. A son of Mexican immigrants, he received his B.A. from the University of New Mexico and his M.F.A. from Cornell University.
Benjamin had the honor of being a 2019 Lambda Literary fellow, the 2018 CantoMundo Fellow at the Palm Beach Poetry Festival, and the 2017 Latinx Scholar at the Frost Place Conference on Poetry. He is the winner of the 2018 Puerto del Sol Poetry Contest and the 2019 Julia Peterkin Flash Fiction Contest. His poems and essays have recently appeared or are forthcoming in: AGNI, American Poetry Review, Boston Review, Missouri Review, Kenyon Review, New England Review, Best New Poets, Crazyhorse, Lithub, and Breakbeat Poets Vol 4: LatiNext. Learn more: benjamingarciapoet.com.
Kiese Laymon is a Black southern writer from Jackson, Mississippi. Laymon’s bestselling memoir, Heavy: An American Memoir, won the 2019 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction, the 2018 Christopher Isherwood Prize for Autobiographical Prose, the Austen Riggs Erikson Prize for Excellence in Mental Health Media, and was named one of the 50 Best Memoirs of the Past 50 Years by the New York Times. The audiobook, read by the author, was named the Audible 2018 Audiobook of the Year. Heavy was a finalist for the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award in Nonfiction and the Kirkus Prize in Nonfiction. It was named a best book of 2018 by the New York Times, Publishers Weekly, NPR, Broadly, Buzzfeed, The Washington Post and Entertainment Weekly.
Three essays from Laymon’s newly reissued book of essays, How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America were selected for inclusion in the Best American series and The Atlantic’s best essays. Laymon’s debut novel, Long Division, which will be reissued in 2021, was honored with the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing and was shortlisted for a number of other awards, including The Believer Book Award by The Believer magazine, and the Ernest J. Gaines Fiction Award.
Laymon is a contributing editor at Vanity Fair and Oxford American. He has written for New York Times, Esquire, VSB, ESPN The Magazine, Paris Review, NPR, Colorlines, The Los Angeles Times, The Guardian, Ebony, Guernica, Fader, Travel & Leisure, Lit Hub and many others. A graduate of Oberlin College, he holds an M.F.A. degree in creative writing from Indiana University. He is the Hubert H. McAlexander Chair of English at the University of Mississippi, and recipient of a 2020-21 Radcliffe Fellowship at Harvard. Laymon is at work on several new projects, including the long poem Good God, the horror novel And So On, the children’s book City Summer, Country Summer and the film Heavy: An American Memoir. He is the founder of The Catherine Coleman Literary Arts and Justice Initiative, a program aimed at getting Mississippi kids and their parents more comfortable with reading, writing, revising and sharing. Learn more: https://www.kieselaymon.com/.
Donald Quist is author of the linked story collection For Other Ghosts and the essay collection Harbors, a Foreword INDIES Bronze Winner and International Book Awards Finalist. His writing has appeared in AGNI, Poets & Writers, North American Review,Michigan Quarterly Review, The Rumpus and was Notable in Best American Essays 2018. He is also creator of the online nonfiction series PAST TEN. Donald has received fellowships from Sundress Academy for the Arts and Kimbilio Fiction. He earned his M.F.A. in writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and is currently a Gus T. Ridgel fellow in the English Ph.D. program at the University of Missouri. Learn more: https://www.donaldquist.com/.